It is pretty well accepted that warming up helps athletes play better and reduce their risk of injuries. However, not every warm-up is created equally. How long should the warm-up be? What should be included in the warm-up to make it more effective?
Every warm-up should last 10-20 minutes and have these 3 things:
Any type of aerobic activity to get the athlete’s heart rate up and get them out of breath will do. This does not necessarily have to match sport-specific movements, but it may be a good idea to keep it similar (i.e. jog a lap for field sports, swim a few laps for a swimmer, bike for a few minutes for a cyclist, etc.). You can even try to make this part fun by throwing in jumping jacks, relay races, or burpees. Burpees are fun, right?
Try to stay away from sitting and holding stretches for 1 or more minutes during the warm-up. Dynamic stretches immediately before games/events have been shown to improve performance. Think about it. When are you really holding a static stretch during a sports game or workout? You aren’t! Prepare your body to move throughout the available range of motion. Some good movements to add into this portion include: squats, lunges, skips, toy soldiers, and bear crawls.
Now that the body is primed and ready to go, it would be wise to go through the movements the body will be expected to perform during the game or event. These movements will be specific to the sport. For soccer, you may want to do dribbling drills, sprints, and/or defensive back shuffles. For football, you may opt to perform tuck jumps, tackling drills, and/or running routes. If the event is weightlifting or CrossFit, then it would be a good idea to perform each component of any complex movement (deadlift, hang clean, and front squats if you will be performing a power clean) and a few reps of each movements at lighter weights to prepare for your working weight.
Warm-ups will prepare you for your game or event, help improve your performance, and reduce your risk of injury. Don’t rush the warm-up because it may not be effective enough. Do not perform an excessively long warm-up (over 30 minutes) or else you run the risk of fatigue and hinder your performance.
Corey Hall, PT, DPT